SOMERS, N.Y. – Prior to their match against visiting Walter Panas, Somers coach Kim Kelly had a message for her team.
“Play with heart, play with passion and play like you want to win and let’s see what happens,” she told them.
The Tuskers heeded her message and went on to pull off an upset over powerhouse Panas, who knocked them out of sectionals last season. Somers won 21-25, 25-16, 25-23, 25-21, on Oct. 10 at home.
It was Somers’ first win over Panas in at least seven years. The Panthers won back-to-back state titles in 2016 and 2017.
“Panas volleyball is a well-developed program and it was an honor to beat them,” said senior captain Julia Vitale, the team’s setter. “It was great to finally complete our goal (of beating them).”
Somers quickly refocused after dropping the first set.
“Our key was to play our game. After the first set we knew we had the skill to beat them, we just had to apply it,” Vitale said. “We made sure to play every point and rally like it was the last.”
The Tuskers had lost to the Panthers 3-0 just a week earlier on the road.
“The only thing that changed is that they actually believed they could win the match,” Kelly said. “I don’t know what the difference is from the last time we played them to now, but something happened where they started to believe in themselves. I’ve always known they can do it.”
Leading the way for Somers were Delaney Killeen (15 kills, 6 digs), Pooja Rao (10 kills, 5 blocks), Ashli Ginquitti (4 aces, 3 blocks), Sabrina Somoza (15 digs) and Vitale (45 assists).
“They played incredible defense and went for every single ball,” Kelly said. “Our offense was just on. Everybody was hitting the right spots. It was just a total team effort. The game ball tonight absolutely went to the team.”
Somers kept its composure when the Panthers went on a run.
“Volleyball is an unforgiving sport, but we were able to get the team back together after each point and just put the ball away,” said Ginquitti, a senior captain.
Somoza, a senior captain, said the team “plays like a family.”
“We’re driven by motivation and each other,” said Somoza, the Tuskers’ libero. “When we lost that first set, we knew that we needed to come back as a family and unite for the win.”
It was a much-needed win for the Tuskers that they hope can springboard them into sectionals.
“We definitely needed this and now that we’ve got it, it’s going to carry us,” Somoza said.
Somers 3, Irvington 0
Friday, Oct. 11
The next day, the Tuskers swept Irvington in straight sets: 25-17, 25-17, 25-22.
Rao (15 kills), Vitale (35 assists) and Killeen (5 aces) paced Somers.
Somers (9-8) was scheduled to travel to league rival Yorktown on Oct. 15. They then close the regular season by hosting league foe Lakeland at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 17.
“We’ve been having a lot of five-set matches and losing in the end,” Ginquitti said. “So I think beating Panas will definitely help us against another powerhouse like Yorktown coming up.”